Kitchen Disasters
  • What are your most memorable kitchen disasters?
    I actually just had one yesterday. I had family/friends/colleagues coming over for dinner and was just about to finish puréeing the soup (main dish) when all of a sudden a brown liquid came out of the puréeing stick and ran into the soup... apparently water had gotten into there and made some of the parts rust...
  • Oooh, that rusty water sounds nasty and just like something that would happen to me.

    This afternoon I decided to get a head start on some Christmas gifts from the kitchen. I started a batch of peanut brittle and it was coming along nicely until I stepped out of the kitchen for a couple of minutes. Next thing I knew I could smell burning sugar. Ugh! The sugar had burned to a dark brown and rather than toss it I thought I could still make brittle out of it. Disgusting!

    I then made a second batch and kept an eye on it the whole time. Sadly, I was too dependent on the thermometer and didn't trust my own judgment. Once again, I overcooked the sugar base. Not burned this time but not exactly delicious either.

    Without enough peanuts to make a third batch, I've retired candy making for the night.
  • Good idea for a topic! I remember making a graham cracker crust for a cheescake back before I had a lot of baking experience. I read the directions, which were for something like 20 crackers and a good-sized piece of butter, mixed it all up and then watched it turn into butter soup in the oven. Turned out that the crackers I had bought were the equivalent of half an 'old' graham cracker, and I'd put in half the amount I was supposed to.

    There are several mixups between teaspoons and tablespoons which were also quite disastrous - I'm sure this isn't uncommon. It's terrible with baking powder, and you have to decide whether to make a huge batch of your original recipe to deal with it, or throw it out and start again.
  • My favorite memory of a cooking disaster was a dinner from my childhood. My Mother, an excellent cook, apparently tossed the sugar for the blueberry muffins into the bowl with the raw scrambled eggs and the salt for the scrambled eggs into the blueberry muffin batter. In those days of long ago, you had to remain seated at the dinner table until you cleared your plate. I seem to remember sitting there for hours until my mother took pity on me. If Queezle Sister remembers this, she may have a different take on it.
  • My first attempt at hosting the family Christmas lunch, and discovering how long a turkey REALLY takes to cook. It was ready at 3 in the afternoon, way past the planned time. Fortunately there was plenty of ham, devils on horsebacks, pudding pav etc so nobody went hungry, and everybody was good about it, but it was a lesson in planning. What was worse, new hubby insisted on a small to medium sized turkey, as he thought it would be better eating (I do tend to dry out poultry) but it meant that there were no leftovers the next day. No cooks day off - haven't made that mistake again either.
  • Seared into my memory is the gingerbread cake made with baking powder added to self-raising flour. The batter bubbled up like the mud pools at Rotorua and burned on the base of the oven!
  • I do NOT remember the story that PS told, above. My story is of a more recent vintage. When my children were about 4 and 7 years old, I wanted for us to make a gingerbread house. The baking and cutting of pieces went along just fine, but unfotunately I didn't bother to check on the type of frosting to use. The house assembled just fine, and we had a lovely time decorating it with candies. However, when the sun started shining through the window, the frosting softened, and we all watched as our poor little house collapsed!
  • When my daughter was turning four, I tried to make strawberry cupcakes for her birthday party. I used only a spoon for mixing and thought it would be OK to just add fresh strawberry puree to a basic (scratch) yellow cake batter. I didn't cream any air into the batter and added all that extra liquid, they ended up more of a dense pudding than cake. The little girls were all very nice about it and loved them anyway, but the other moms were not impressed! That fiasco spurred me to learn about baking, which has been great fun.
  • Oh - I have a funny children's birthday cake story, too.

    I wanted to make my daughter a barbie cake - with the cake being a big skirt and the doll sticking out from the waist up. I could have ordered one from the bakery, but thought - how hard could this be? I made a cake in a bowl, but realized it was way too short. I made a second cake, and realized that the two together were still too short. I made a third cake, and... you guessed it ... still too short. I no longer had time to make another cake layer so I did something terrible; I cut the feet off the doll so the "skirt" would come up to her waist. The children were small, and after cutting the cake I made the doll disappear quickly - before the kids could see poor barbie's disability!
  • By way of context and in my own defense, this disaster occurred about 15 years ago at the height of the non-fat craze. Don't pretend; you got caught up in it too. I took a notion to make a non-fat lasagna: non-fat ricotta, non-fat mozzarella, non-fat anything else I could lay my hands on.

    Abomination. I've eaten some pretty dicey things over the years and have some basis for comparison.

    In order to justify the time and resources necessary to produce it, we manfully slogged through much more of it than we should have - giving it the benefit of a few more bites before declaring it inedible. That was a mistake for which the household's GI tracts and plumbing system paid the price.

    The take-away lesson has remained a personal dietary guideline ever since: a small amount of real food is far superior to a large amount of pseudo-food. Always. No exceptions.
  • It was through this disaster that I discovered that my 18 year old oven had developed a most peculiar quirk: it will not switch from the broiler function (top element) to the bake function (bottom element) by a mere turning of the dial, lowering of the temperature setting. This action is successful only in turning the top element, and in essence the oven, off.

    I had just finished pre-cooking some meatballs under the broiler so I set the oven to 350F to bake a bundt cake. I put the pan into the oven when the light indicated the temperature had been reached. The cake was done in the allotted time (the skewer came out clean); it was lovely and golden and smelled wonderful.

    After cooling briefly in the pan, I inverted the cake onto a rack. All I can say is, thank goodness I had a cookie sheet under the cooling rack. The top part of the cake came out as expected, the rest of it poured out on top. When I recovered from the horror of the sight, I was determined to salvage the ingredients. I scraped all of the cake onto the cookie sheet, (most of the uncooked batter had dripped there already), took a chance that my oven was working again and baked the mess some more. (This is when I learned that my oven will go from broil to bake function if it is turned off first!)

    I had already made the glaze for what should have been a bundt, so I used it on the baked mess instead. This thing was devoured by family (they really aren't desperate for homemade baked goods - it was just that good!)...I couldn't stand to look at it. It took almost a year before I could try that recipe again and it was only because of constant requests for it that I did.

    The cake has a fudge ripple through it and I figure that this dense layer wiped the skewer clean of uncooked batter as I was drawing it out, hence the the "successful" test for doneness.
  • When I was about 8, my aunt and I planned to make Thanksgiving dinner for our large extended family. We got all kinds of things ready for the big dinner, and just left the turkey in the oven for several hours without checking it or basting it. When my aunt opened the oven door not long before people were going to arrive, she was mortified to discover that the oven was NOT ON! I was only 8, so I did not know we should have smelled turkey roasting all that time. My poor aunt. She was one of the few who had a microwave back then, so I think she did something with the raw turkey and gravy in the micro, and that was our turkey dish for that year!
  • The current issue of Newsweek has a column on Wolfgang Puck's favorite mistake. You can also access it here.
  • Last night's tale of woe: I set out to make angel food cake for a colleague's birthday today, and was using Alton Brown's recipe from the Good Eats website. Everything went well (I cheated and used my stand mixer to beat the egg whites!), until it was time to cool the cake. I went to invert the cake on a bottle, as directed by many angel food cake recipes, but forgot that the inner and outer parts of the cake pan were separate. Gripping only the outside, I flipped the cake over, at approximately beer bottle height. Floopmh. The cake landed on the stovetop which still contained remnants of the dinner prepared earlier. So my finished masterpiece was a broken pile with green peas embedded in the bottom. Not very attractive at all. It was still tasty, though. And we are set to have store bought angel food cake at today's birthday gathering.
  • The apple tapioca review by Queezle Sister triggered a memory from my youth. When I first started cooking I sometimes confused ingredients. I made an apple tapioca recipe, but put in 3 tablespoons of lemon extract for the lemon juice. My parents were somewhat surprised by the taste of alcohol, but liked it. None of us kids did however. After reading QS' review I wonder if Apple Tapioca (my recipe took pearl tapioca as well) is doomed.

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